Kelly on unbridled enthusiasm
Jul 24, 2013
Bishop Hill in Climate: Sceptics, Climate: other

Mike Kelly has a letter in Nature this week:

With more than US$1 trillion spent globally on research and development in 2007 (see, sheer scale seems to be corrupting the scientific enterprise as individuals take ever more extreme measures to stand out.

For instance, parliamentary reviews of the 2009 'Climategate' scandal at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, reported evidence of scientific misconduct (see The allegations included questionable journal refereeing to promote a particular scientific line (see also Nature; 2010). Instead, journals should be supported as places where unsettled science is refined by open debate. But, compared with 30 years ago, they do seem less willing to publish negative results or cautionary reviews that temper unbridled enthusiasm — perhaps because of ratings wars.

In another example, a May 2011 article in Times Higher Education reported on the cover-up of data that would otherwise have prevented a cancer drug from entering phase III clinical trials, raising and dashing patients' hopes and putting lives at risk on a false premise.

There is also a tendency to issue breathless press releases to accompany publication of even modest advances, and for entries in the 'future impact' section of grant application forms to be loaded with ludicrous hyperbole.

It is any wonder that trust in scientists is starting to decline (see

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